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The stirring raga rages on: Adjectives are too limited to describe the golden voice of Rashid Khan

He could captivate the audience and eradicate the thin line between a structured format and the playfulness of a classical composition while his voice moved through the shades of ragas

The Telegraph Published 10.01.24, 06:33 AM
Rashid Khan.

Rashid Khan. Sourced by The Telegraph

The name of Ustad Rashid Khan reminds one of the words of T.S. Eliot: “Music heard so deeply/that is not heard at all, but/you are the music/while the music lasts.’’

A born genius, talented and extraordinary musician... adjectives are too limited to describe the golden voice of Rashid Khan.


The fulfilment of an art form touches immortality when the artist becomes the art, as the poet said. Diehard listeners of Rashid Khan and ardent music lovers know the truth because they have discovered the artiste’s voice in different genres of music and steeped integrated melodies.

The great-grandson of the legendary Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan, the founder of the Rampur Sahaswan Gharana, Rashid was born on July 1, 1968, at Badaun in Uttar Pradesh.

Memory and melancholy created the soul of the artiste, although he was completely unaware he would one day become one of the greats of Indian classical music. He lost his mother and younger brother at a very early age; he found solace in kabaddi and cricket.

Rashid studied in Mumbai for about a year and after coming back to his hometown, his tutelage was started under his illustrious granduncle and guru, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan. He also carried the lineage of renowned vocalists like Mushtaq Hussain Khan and Ghulam Mustafa Khan. But the rather authoritarian Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan changed the course of his life and made him what he became over the years. He nurtured the latent potential of Rashid through his training, first at his own residence at Badaun and subsequently at the Sangeet Research Academy in Calcutta.

Young Rashid Khan, an assured voice of the future of Indian classical vocal music, certified by none other than Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, was to evolve into a formidable talent, especially with his prowess in taankari and gamak.

His full-throated voice was an exceptional amalgamation of depth and rhythmic generosity. He could captivate the audience and eradicate the thin line between a structured format and the playfulness of a classical composition while his voice moved through the shades of ragas. He was adept at the instrumental stroke-based style which he inherited from his gharana, as well as an expert at infusing emotion into an elaborate musical verse.

Probably this is the reason he was successful in different styles of singing and innovation despite being a rooted classical musician.

For example, when he sang Tagore songs based on various ragas, he focused on the rendition of the quintessential flavour; his command over the notes and tunes brought out the charm of the song with skilful originality.

Rashid had fond memories of the town of Badaun and its surroundings where he spent his early days. The river which flows by the town was a witness to the number of hours Rashid spent by its side singing.

He paid his respects on his visits to his hometown at the cemetery where his parents and young brother were laid to rest.

It may well be the inexplicable pain and loneliness of childhood filtered through his every rendition of ‘Yaad Piya ki Aye’ (composed originally by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan) — a Rashid reinvention that became very popular. As with the Bollywood hit ‘Aoge Jab tum o saajna’ from Jab We Met.

He skilfully obliterated differences between musical genres and was able to recreate a unique combination of love and exuberance with the full boom of his voice in three octaves, as manifested in each and every song. In numerous playback essays, he successfully broke traditional boundaries with his scintillating voice and evoked sensibilities even when he was out of his core expertise.

In the words of senior organiser of the Dover Lane Music Conference, Bappa Sen: “Rashid contributed an unparallel range to the music fraternity. We have seen him grow as a man as well as an artiste and witnessed his excellence in all spheres of music. He was an integral part of this music festival from a very young age and even performed in the periodicals. Along with his talent, he excelled himself to heights that required enormous hard work and open-mindedness. As a person he was as humble and respectful to all of us as he was from the very first day.”

Sarodiya Amaan Ali Khan thinks: “Unki voice mein to Ishwar hain.” He had countless memories with this senior artiste, fellow musician and co-performer who, Amaan says, was always an inspiration to him. “He was a person as clear as water,” said Amaan.

To his close friends and contemporary musicians, Rashid Khan was an irreplaceable voice and human being in every sense. The absence of Rashid’s mortal existence has now created a vacuum in the world of Indian classical music which is now devoid of his rich depth of voice.

Rashid’s son Armaan is carrying the torch of the legacy, his daughters Suha and Shaona are into Sufi music.

Rashid flourished as the breaking dawn with Lalit, Ahir Bhairon, Miyan ki Todi, returned to the root with Puriya Kalyan, Puriya Dhaneshree, Shree, sparkled with Sohini.

He has left behind an unforgettable repertoire of renditions and the gift of his unbridled imagination to lovers of his singular work.

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